Rock, Dust, Light, Star
October 12th, 761
Bulma held Gohan closer to her chest. The gesture was instinctive, probably engraved into her DNA, since anyone who knew her could have sworn she had never consciously shown a maternal bone in her body, ever before.
"Oh, Kami," she whispered, into the yellow fabric of the little boy's tunic.
Krillin's screams of anguish echoed throughout the large, green opening and somehow, somewhere, beyond the stupor she had fallen in, she felt a pang of insane envy. How she wished she'd be able to scream, right now. To express grief, to store pain into something vocal, away, outside of her body and receive in turn some measure of peace.
Instead – she was anesthetized.
Her soul torn out of her body, Bulma was merely a witness of the mournful scene. She wasn't there.
"Goku? GOKU! Come on, wake up! You can't be dead!"
"He's gone," a voice said. "I can't believe he's actually gone."
The voice sounded painful, and rugged – it rang heavy with stupid tears. It came from a distant place, it seemed.
Bulma felt something wet on her cheeks.
In shock, she realized she was crying – copious, burning tears were streaming down her face and she couldn't help it – she hadn't even realized they were there – and then another realization came upon her.
The croaking voice belonged to her.
Krillin was shaking Goku's lifeless body, crying desolately. Master Roshi stood there, looking on from behind his dark glasses, a rare solemn expression on his old face.
Then Krillin gasped through the tears. Something was happening. Bulma squinted.
Goku's face was unnaturally still, his slack features bearing the ghost of his last smile – and then – he simply vanished into the nothingness. Gone. No trace of him left – maybe it was a cruel joke to make them hope, to make them think that they were all stuck into a nightmare about Goku, who was alive and well and probably looking for them. No silly things such as a long lost murderer brother from space in their lives.
But there was a lingering imprint that he had been there, alive, breathing, talking to them and then – dying. It was the gruesome pool of blood on the willowy grass.
She stared at the darkening stain as Piccolo said something, but she wasn't actually listening. Piccolo's words drowned before they reached her brain, scattering uselessly into the grey buzzing fog that was clouding her head.
Son-Kun had given his life to save his own child.
Bulma looked down at the shining four-star Dragon Ball, the one that had brought her to him – and it gave her the reflection of a pair of pitiful eyes and she had to blink twice before recognizing them as her own. Once she did, she hated herself for what she had seen.
Goku had died, for real, sacrificing himself for the well-being of his four years old son and the least she could do was snap out of it.
She set her face into a resolute frown.
She knew what she had to do. She didn't have to prepare helplessly for his return, and she didn't have to prepare hopelessly for his perpetual absence.
She would be the one to bring him back.
"We'll see you soon," she whispered to the crisp autumnal sky and when a gust of wind ruffled lightly her hair, she knew for sure he had heard and was saying thank you.
November 3rd, 762
Goku hissed through his clenched teeth, torn for the umpteenth time between the desire to just pass out altogether, so he could stop being at the mercy of the searing pain that was coursing through every nerve of his body and the gratefulness he felt at the simple notion of being – wait, no – of feeling alive.
And really, when he stopped to think about it, there was nothing actually simple about the fact of him being alive.
Never mind that scarcely twenty-four hours ago he had a freaking halo above his head. No, that wasn't the issue, not anymore anyway.
The plane was silent and plunged into darkness. Everyone was asleep and Yajirobe, who had the steering wheel for that last hour of the ride, had turned off the lights 'so everyone could rest', Korin had said.
The thing was – he had almost been defeated by the guy.
Vegeta. Prince of all Saiyans. Really? Goku had almost scoffed at that.
But there was nothing to laugh at. Because Vegeta, there, had been a vicious, cunning, unrelenting opponent, the strongest he had ever faced. The Saiyans had killed everyone.
Yamcha. Tien. Chiaotzu. Piccolo.
All gone, trying to protect the Earth.
Goku had hated it, but he had needed the help. Krillin's and Yajirobe's. Gohan's help. Gohan, his son, who a year ago chased butterflies and now was on the battlefield alongside all of them.
Goku closed his eyes. Who would've thought. He was immensely proud of him. He regretted not having been the one to teach Gohan the ropes, of not having experienced Gohan's birth as warrior. But he was proud of him and grateful to Piccolo. Forever grateful and full of respect for Piccolo for lots of surprising things.
He thought about the last time he had seen Piccolo alive – it was funny that way, how it all had started the day of his own death, which is usually supposed to be an ending. The huge green opening and his brother, Raditz. Goku whirled the name in the front of his mind, pondering on it – not making sense of that estranged brother with crazy hair that had come down from space and turned his life on a dime.
From space. Goku had wanted to laugh. It turned out he was an alien, of the bad kind nonetheless. Saiyans. Powerful warriors – very nasty people, as he had learned from fighting the three last exponents of that race.
Not his race. Never that.
And yet, he had let Vegeta go. But there was no other reason beyond what he had tried to explain to Krillin, not even the slightest part of him had let Vegeta get away because they supposedly belonged to the same race.
He just wanted to fight him again, to become stronger than that concentrate of power and evil, he wanted to kick him to the curb nice and well and without any help. He needed that and he was sure he would succeed. Saiyans be damned.
Not knowing how much Saiyan he was being in that peculiar wish, Goku shifted his thought to space. Space had always been something mysterious to him, something fascinating and shining, something good. He thought of when Bulma had showed him the Milky Way. It was beautiful and white and inoffensive. Sure, it was bigger than he could ever know, and the thought of the mean and dangerous things that lurked in the universe wasn't comforting. Then again, Goku's mind wagered, across the stars there were probably as many good things, to counter the bad. That, he felt he could say with a good degree of certainty.
Soft steps brought Goku back from his hazy considerations and he looked up. Speaking of universe – she probably knew all about it.
"B-Bulma?" he said in a whisper, and his voice grated harshly while exiting his throat.
Through the darkness he saw her hesitate for a moment, then watched as she pushed from the wall she was leaning on and crawled on her fours towards him, her legs making a swishing sound on the wooden boards of the plane.
"Hey," was what she said.
It was a subdued murmur and Goku found her voice unusually soothing. He was used to her tones going up and up in irritation, and to her high-pitched squeals of delight.
No – Goku mentally corrected himself – he wasn't used to anything.
That had been years ago. He just remembered Bulma being that way, and something in the back of his mind was telling him that she was bound to become a little more distant, a little less known. She had never been that predictable to begin with; she was never stationary. But – a breach had slowly but surely opened between the two of them, with the passing of time, with the distances they had put between, the things they hadn't done together. The choices they had made. The growth they had experienced apart from each other.
Those five – wait, was it six? – years had gone by in a flurry and they had been pleasant and busy enough that he didn't think much about the widening breach – he didn't question things as they were.
Sure, he couldn't remember everything of those years like he could with the amazing adventures that had fallen upon him since the day he had left his grandpa's shrine in the woods – like he remembered every day spent with Krillin at Kame House, every lessons learned – but then again, who actually could? It wasn't noteworthy, nobody could remember every single detail of their everyday life. And it had nothing to do with the bash on his head, he thought. He remembered the day Gohan was born. That had been a happy day. Terrifying, and happy.
But now, hearing Bulma's quiet voice, he suddenly became aware of the distance. And it made him feel sorry.
"Hey," he echoed, giving her his best smile under the circumstances.
She looked the same, though. Everything he could remember was right in his place and she smelled the same, hot wood, and roses and melting honey, like the woods around his house – around his grandpa's house – in spring.
She didn't return the smile. She was completely still, looking at him with her blue eyes – those he knew, they flickered in the way he hadn't been able to forget. And he had learned enough of every single shift of those irises to know that she was thinking something very complex.
She knelt there for the longest minute, giving him nothing, and Goku find himself thinking that maybe he wasn't that strong after all, because he felt like squirming. Wanting to hear her voice again – she had only said one syllable and he found himself longing for more than that.
"Are you okay?" he asked, searching.
It wasn't a question that was winning the title of most brilliant thing ever said anytime soon, but he genuinely wanted to hear her voice, to hear the thoughts of the Bulma of the present.
Bulma let out a breath. She shrugged her shoulders.
"Yeah," she said too quickly. Nodding her head frantically. She grimaced. "No," she admitted, and her voice was small, and hesitant.
A beat passed in silence. Goku looked at her with knitted eyebrows, his gaze focusing on something deep within her eyes. Then he bit hard on his lower lip and slowly, struggling, he stretched out an arm, inch by inch shaking, overcoming the breaking pain.
He put his hand on hers.
It hurt, but he didn't mind. Bulma jumped a little at the contact and looked at him with wide eyes – then something seemed to lit up inside her.
"But there's still hope, isn't there?" she said.
"You bet," Goku replied, giving her with a firm, assertive look.
Yes, there was hope. There was no question about that, not as long as he was breathing, and maybe Bulma needed to hear that again.
A little faraway hope nestled into the depths of Namek, the remote planet that had given birth to Kami, and to King Piccolo along with him. That had probably been the root, the foundation of everything. Because, when Kami had found himself on Earth all those decades before – suddenly lost and alone – he had then created the Dragon Balls on the ancestral memory of his native land. The mystic Dragon Balls that had brought all of them together. And now they had to go back to the roots to find the way to bring back Piccolo and Yamcha and Tien and Chiaotzu. To give them back the life they deserved and by doing that, to erase all the grief and injustice the Saiyans had brought to their home.
The Saiyans, Goku thought again, and a pang of an indecipherable emotion went through his chest.
Bulma reached to him, running her fingertips on his jaw. She gave him a contrite look when he hissed in pain as even her light touch was too much for him, but still, he didn't really want her to draw away, he didn't want her to put that empty distance back between them.
And she seemed to understand that. Maybe she felt the same, he didn't know. Either way, she settled for lightly brushing his bangs out of his forehead, probably thinking that his hair couldn't possibly hurt. It did, but he said nothing. It was a tender, unexpected gesture, yet Goku felt himself blush slightly because, on the contrary, her gaze was hard and fiery, and for some reason it burned.
"For a moment there, I thought I was never going to see you again," she said, in a thick whisper, so low he wondered if it had been only in his head.
Goku blinked. She was so close, closer than she'd ever been in a long, long time. He swallowed, his throat more parched than ever, and felt himself let out a soft giggle.
"What, me, die?" he said flashing a confident smile. "Never!"
Bulma didn't smile. She looked annoyed.
"Stop," she breathed.
And Goku did. He did stop, he stopped being what he was, what he'd always been and became something else, the thing he was when she was that close. The thunder in his chest, in his lungs, the roaring in his ears – she was so close he could hear, no, he could feel her heartbeat, and he could feel her breath, which was steady, controlled.
A loud clanging sound resonated from the front of the airplane and Bulma jumped back. Goku would have jumped out of his skin too if he hadn't been paralyzed on the floor. She leaped on her feet.
The breach widened again.
Everyone was waking up, Chichi already berating Krillin for disturbing Gohan's well-deserved sleep, Master Roshi, Oolong and Korin talking loudly on each other.
Yajirobe turned on the lights.
"What's all the commotion about?" he snarled, turning his head a little from the controls to look behind.
"HAHAHA, sorry guys!" Krillin exclaimed. "I-I just dropped Yajirobe's sword, it's alright!"
"What?! What were you doing with my katana?"
Krillin held out his hands. "Relax, I was just looking!"
Yajirobe scowled. "Give it here, midget!"
"Hey!" Krillin said, but Yajirobe had already leapt out of the driver's seat and jumped on him – except, in doing that, he had let go of the steering wheel, and with no one at the commands, the plane took a sudden dive.
Bulma swiftly grabbed the wheel and got the airplane back on track. "I think it's my turn to drive," she said, sending a malevolent look to Krillin and Yajirobe. "You all step back, DUMBASS!"
From the back of the plane, Goku snickered to himself. Yep, that was something he was very familiar with.
Gohan crawled away of his mother's lap and peered back at him. "How are you feeling, daddy?"
Goku answered with a smile. "I'm okay, Gohan. Don't worry."
He winked at his son and received in turn a beaming bright smile.
Then, somehow, he met Krillin's stare. He thought he saw something in the look of his friend, but then again – maybe he was just seeing things. He had smacked his head a few times harder than he thought it was possible, anyway.
He stared at the ceiling. "Can't wait to get off this thing, though. Is anyone else starving?"
He never saw or heard Bulma growling and tightening her grip around the steering wheel.
"You've been quiet."
Chichi's brisk voice traveled across the hospital room.
Goku tried and failed not to wince at her tone, even if he had learned that she rarely meant any harm. It was just how she talked.
It was the first time they'd found themselves alone in a room since – he didn't even remember. He wasn't sure what to think of it – it was kind of nice, but he felt he'd better keep on his toes, just in case she had a frying pan stored somewhere, maybe behind the flowers she had just brought.
He shifted cautiously against the sheets, the bandages itching like crazy. Thankfully he was out of that total body cast from hell, but still, he was very close to the end of his endurance. He hated hospitals. And hospital food. And needles. Kami, he hated needles.
"Mh? Oh, sorry, Chichi!" he said. "I was – I was thinking."
Silence. Chichi sent him a long, calculating look, eyes narrowed, lips pursed.
"About?" she finally snapped.
"You really think that's a good idea?"
Goku looked up at her interruption. He wasn't following her train of thoughts, but he was under the distinct impression that it was leading to no good.
"What's that?" he asked, wary.
Chichi opened and closed her mouth once, as if at loss for words, and her features set into an incredulous expression.
"What's…?" she began weakly before suddenly exploding. "I'll tell you what's that! My baby boy going to Namek!" she all but yelled.
Goku cringed. "Oooh, that!
"Yes!" she seethed. "That!"
Goku bit his lower lip briefly since it was the only gesture he could do. Otherwise, he'd been already at the door, fleeing the place.
"I thought we all talked about it…?" he replied weakly, like a question. It was better to lie low, he figured.
"Er… no, Goku, we didn't all talk about it!" Chichi barked. "Gohan shouted, you let him and I stood there like a moron in front of everyone!"
"Hehehe." Goku giggled at the memory, or maybe it was her phrasing that made the thing funnier than it had been. Either way, he knew he'd made a mistake when he saw that Chichi was fuming. He gulped, and tried to smile as reassuring as he could.
"Oh, come on, Chichi," he said. "Gohan's great. He'll be okay."
Chichi scowled. "He's five years old."
"It's not like he's going to be alone," Goku replied with confidence. Krillin would be there. She would be there. She, who was back at the forefront of his mind – leaving him to wonder how she could ever have left in the first place
"Oh – oh! That's a relief!"
Goku cringed at the heavy sarcasm she put in her voice. He actually trusted Krillin with his life and Bulma – well. She was unpredictable but brilliant and resourceful. She'd get herself out of any situation – when she wanted to. Bottom line, Gohan would be safe. He had no doubt about that and Chichi needed to open her eyes about Gohan, about how extraordinary their child was. A kind of extraordinary that had nothing to do with outstanding grades.
He frowned at Chichi, which was rare. "Just – look," he began. "You should be proud of him! I am! He's doing what he can to help our friends!"
But Chichi didn't seem to be impressed. "Those are not Gohan's friends!" she replied, not missing a beat. "He doesn't even know them, for Kami's sake!"
"Piccolo sacrificed his life to save him."
"The least he could do after kidnapping him. I wasn't allowed to see my own son for a whole year!" she cried. Goku could actually feel the tears in her voice, even if she didn't shed any – and he felt his expression soften at the grief she was emanating. "I didn't know where he was! If he was okay!"
"Is it so wrong to want what is best for him?"
Goku sighed. For the first time since his return, he tried to picture the hole Chichi had felt in that year they'd all spent apart. Their home made sounds – voices, laughs, shouts. Bath splashing, doors slammed. Chichi had suddenly found herself in a lot of silence, he thought, and he was sorry for it. Sure, one day they'd probably go back to that. But pretending that right now, right then, things hadn't changed would do no good to anyone.
"No," he said, and, of course, he believed it. "No, it's not. But Chichi… this is not a bad thing. Gohan's doing what he feels it's right. And it is right."
Chichi lowered her eyes. She sniffled lightly. "He's grown up without me."
"He'll be back before you know it."
Goku didn't know how the argument dissipated from their mouths, but it did, and he watched Chichi bring her shoulders down and then up. She stood ramrod straight.
"I'll go finish packing his books for the trip," she said, making her way to the door. "There's even a new edition of 'Biochemistry: concept and connections', he likes it so much…"
"Ew. I mean, wow, lucky him!"
Bulma cursed out loud, recoiling and shaking her hand up and down fast, trying to dissipate the heat of the burn. She was fixing the very last things on the ship for their trip to Namek. Something had short-circuited and she dropped the screwdriver on the floor and thought it was just her luck to kill herself while fixing a plug.
Screw the plug. Screw the ship.
"Bulma, you alright?"
Her dad's grey head peered from the seat at the controls, where he was making a last-minute test on the panels.
It was late and she was tired.
"Yeah, dad. Just come take a look at this thing when you're done over there," she sighed. "Listen, I'm getting something to drink, I need a break. Want something?"
"Coffee would be nice. Oh, and a donut. And that chocolate thingy your mother made tonight, maybe?" he said, around his ever-present cigarette.
Bulma snorted. "Anything else?"
"No, pumpkin, thank you."
Bulma rolled her eyes and left him on the ship. She walked through the grounds of Capsule Corporation, leaving the laboratory behind and exiting in the cool night air.
The lights of West City were as blinding as ever and she thought about the next day, when she would willingly launch herself into space – she wondered how the Earth was going to look from a distance. She'd seen it a million of times, but that had been just in textbooks.
"Just imagine what it would be like to go and see the stars up close."
"Wow. It does make you feel so small."
Bulma shook her head. Damn it! It was all Yamcha's fault! What was he thinking, going and getting himself killed, leaving her to clean up the mess?
She tugged at her hair, only a touch shy of exasperation. She was looking at the coming trip with anxiety, more anxiety than she felt was normal. She felt spooked and jittery, and sizzling, pumped up on adrenaline – and even if she had always loved the state of excitement in which a new adventure always put her in, this – this was too much. It was inexplicable.
Screw the adrenaline.
Screw Son Goku.
Yes, because, guess what, he was back. After all, she had been the one who had gathered the Dragon Balls to bring him back to life, but she had done so because it was right, because it wasn't his time, because he deserved it. Because little Gohan deserved his daddy and the world deserved its hero and because it wasn't possible to conceive a dead Goku. But him, to be back, and to make her feel – that had not been in her plans.
He was supposed to defeat the Saiyans and go back to whatever he had been doing for the past five years. Away, far, far away from her. And she was supposed to maybe talk to Yamcha and give their relationship another try because when things were good between them, they were really good. Greeting cards and red roses. Chocolate boxes. It was pretty. It was fun.
But then she had seen Goku and she had felt…
And it was no fun at all.
He was back and he was married to a woman she couldn't bring herself to hate. Sure, she behaved like an annoying, nagging harpy but, yeah. She was a mother; Bulma couldn't fully understand the concept, but if she were to guess, she would say that no one deserved what Chichi had gone through as a mother. A little bit – okay, a lot – of madness was allowed, as long as she didn't scream in Bulma's ears.
Bulma could more easily hate him – hate his warm smile, and his raw strength, and the way his eyes blazed when he talked about something important. She could hate the way he was back at the forefront of her mind – leaving her to wonder how he could ever have left in the first place.
She could. She did, she thought as she walked on. Because he had left her behind and now he was pushing her forward. And, between the two things, he had looked at her and it had been unmistakable – he was asking her to stay close. And, since she was the fool she was, that was exactly what she wanted to do herself. Stay close. Make contact.
Bulma felt like exploding in tiny little fireballs. Who knew what could have happened on the plane if Krillin hadn't been such a klutz. Or – could it be – no, it surely couldn't – so insightful?
She felt her skin crawl in horror at the implication.
No, no, no and no. She didn't want that not-funny-at-all connection.
And she had no desire of talking to him. That ought to be the reason she found herself strolling down the hallway leading to his door.
And screw me too.
The hallway was dark and eerie, the way hospital at night usually were. It was silent.
Bulma had never visited, aside for the time she had then found herself following the spooky Mr. Popo guy to Jupiter. She snickered to herself. Her life was getting weirder and weirder.
Well, I guess dad will have to fetch donuts by himself, she thought, as she glanced at her watch.
Two o' clock.
With a roll of her eyes towards the ceiling, Bulma pushed the door open and entered the room.
Goku was the only patient. He was out of his mummy attire, Bulma noticed. That was good.
He was stone still though and his expression was blank, he was snoring softly. Bulma studied him for a moment, allowing herself to relax – since he was asleep and couldn't look back at her and, therefore, she could breathe easy.
With one last look, she turned on her heels and was already turning the handle when a low murmur reached her.
"You cut your hair."
She turned. Goku was sitting up, looking up at her with sleep-clouded eyes, his hair more askew than usual, sticking into fifty different directions through the bandages secured around his head.
She went back to stand at the feet of his bed.
"Yeah," she said, in an equally soft murmur. "Yeah!" she repeated, louder, the adrenaline back, pumping full force, driving her crazy.
"You're supposed to say I look good, you dummy!" she yelled and after that, Goku was fully awake. "Otherwise I'll think I look horrible and then you'll be lucky both of your legs are already broken!"
Goku looked at her with widened eyes. "Sure!" he quickly exclaimed, probably fearing for his already broken bones. "You - you do, you look good!"
Bulma stuck her nose in the air. "Hmpf."
She let herself fall into the empty chair at his bedside and crossed her legs. There. Safe distance.
Goku eyed her curiously.
"Are you alright?" he asked after a while. And it stung because he could read into her so well all over again.
"Of course," she scoffed. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"You actually look…" Goku trailed off, lifting his only free hand to his cheek, scratching it with a finger. "…tense."
Bulma sagged on her chair. "It's just…" she began. "I don't know."
Goku's intent stare was making her uneasy and she said the first things that came to her mind. "Well, you're making me go to Namek with Krillin and your kid!"
At that, Goku actually laughed and Bulma shot him a bored look. "What?"
"Well, it could be worse!" he said, cheerful. "Master Roshi volunteered, you know that, right?"
Bulma scrunched up her nose in a grimace. "Ugh!" she let out. "Please!"
Goku laughed some more and Bulma tried to let it seep through her, easing the knot in her chest a little bit.
"I'm sure you'll be okay," he said. Then a longing look went across his warm eyes. "You should be excited, it'll be fun!" he continued. "Looking for the dragon balls… I wish I could go."
"Yeah, it's easy for you to talk," Bulma said, indignant. "You're… big. Strong. A brute," she added before he could even remotely think she had any intention of complimenting him and, surely enough, Goku laughed again and stuck his tongue at her. Bulma smiled, satisfied with herself. Disaster averted. Mission accomplished. She could actually exist in the same room with Son-Kun without turning into a jabbering idiot. She just hoped she hadn't spoken too soon.
"Can you do one thing for me, Bulma?"
Bulma narrowed her eyes at him and leaned back on her chair. "What is it?" she asked, begrudgingly.
Goku looked at her funny for what seemed to Bulma an endless moment of silence.
"Take care of Gohan and Krillin for me, will you?"
Something about him made her jaw tense. Her breath hitched in her throat.
"I…" she gasped, blinking furiously. "I'll try."
Goku nodded. She could see the blaze, the blaze beyond the black in those eyes.
"Good," he said. "And be safe – be strong."
Bulma closed her eyes. Her heart was tumbling a mile an hour and she felt lightheaded, even though there was plenty of oxygen in the room. But maybe some of her neurons were really dying anyway because there was no other reason for her voice to go out in a choked whisper:
"Will you be with me?"
Goku's eyes were glued on hers. Bulma held her head a little bit straighter, a little bit taller, trying to hide her equal urges to flee and stay. And when she thought she couldn't take it anymore, he spoke with ease.
"Always," he said.
Bulma squinted at him, her eyes hard, fiery. She slowly nodded her head. Then she exhaled.
"Tell me about the afterworld," she said, a little bit louder than needed. Goku raised his eyebrows, chortling out a small laugh.
"I want to know everything!" Bulma continued, leaning forward, resting her forearms on his bed. "Is this King Kai guy as weird as he sounds?"
Goku thought about it. "Well…" he paused for effect. "He has a pet monkey!"
Bulma gasped. "He doesn't!"
"Oh, yeah! It's called Bubbles, and…"
They laughed, and talked, and laughed some more until sunrise. Not that they were keeping track, of course.
Gohan ran to the spaceship window, pressing his nose hard against it.
The shout was full of wide-eyed, unabashed excitement and Bulma and Krillin ran to each of his sides, peering out as well, searching for the reason of such trepidation.
"Look at that!"
Krillin whistled in admiration. "Oh, man!"
Outside, against the dark blanket of the open space, a huge mass of the brightest violet Bulma had ever seen stood out, luminous, majestic to her eyes. The violet mass was quilted with tiny spots of dazzling white and, Bulma thought, it seemed to be slowly folding, twirling into itself, and at the center of that centripetal motion, the violet became indigo, then blue, then ultramarine. The colors were surging into each other, languidly, hypnotizing, like ribbons of dancing light.
Bulma held her breath, her pupils dilating in wonder. "Wow…"
She pressed her nose harder against the glass and thought about what Goku had said a long, long time ago. Yes. Yes. He had been right. Looking at the stars – the stars so close – did make you feel small. Small with awe at the marvel of the universe.
With an amazed smile, Bulma put an arm around Gohan's shoulders. The boy smiled and, in turn, put his arms around Krillin.
Together, they prepared to face the unknown without fear, though it seemed unlikely that, after a gift of such mesmerizing beauty, the universe could have something bad in store for them.
They were ready.
December 24th, 762
Goku was punching the air, relentlessly.
Sweat was running down his forehead, down his back, burning in his eyes, sticking to his skin, gluing his clothes to his body.
His movements quick as lightning but precise and controlled.
He pivoted on his left foot, throwing a spinning kick and, landing gracefully, he immediately did a rising block, before punching the air again letting out a powerful kiai.
In a split millisecond, he was in his defensive stance and ready to begin again, turning left – a palm-heel strike that moved the air.
The 100x gravity buzzed on him, trying to crush him, but he was stronger and quicker and sharper. He could cut through the dense atmosphere.
A roundhouse kick and he thought about Gohan. An elbow strike and he thought about Krillin. A knife hand block and Bulma appeared in front of him, gaze hard and fiery and he knew he wouldn't fail.
He smiled and breathed.
He was ready.